Tuhoe have been granted control over the Uruwera National Park in an historic treaty settlement.
It remains to be seen exactly how much control they will have, but Tuhoe chief negotiator Tamati Kruger says they expect to see that control increase over time.
“This offer by the Crown would mean that over time Tuhoe influence within governance, management and administration will increase,” he says.
Mr Kruger says that whether or not it is recognised by the Government, Tuhoe have always regarded themselves as a separate legal identity.
“Tuhoe has always regarded itself as already a nation,” he says. “[It’s] something not granted by parliament, but something that pre-existed parliament. The issue for Tuhoe and the Crown is the exercise and the practice of that.”
The Government insists the deal is a special one-off case, but Tuhoe specialist Paul Moon says it is an arrangement that is likely to appeal to other claimants.
“There’s so much that’s attractive about this settlement that it would be very surprising if other claimants didn’t say, well, we want that type of co-management system to apply to us as well,” he says.
Mr Moon says the deal means the Government and Tuhoe will have to work closely together over management of the region.
“It’s a partnership in its purest form. What it means is that both the Crown and the claimants, rather than fighting each other, have to work together, they have the power of veto over each other’s decisions, so they have to reach a consensus if they want any progress to be made,” he says.
According to Mr Moon, Tuhoe will eventually achieve something close to independence.
Watch the video for Firstline’s full interviews with Tamati Kruger and Paul Moon